The Arabian Nights

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The Arabian Nights is the most popular English title for the collection of Middle Eastern folk tales called أَلْف لَيْلَة وَلَيْلَة‎‎ in Arabic (pronounced "Alf layla wa-layla", and meaning "One Thousand and One Nights"), compiled during the Islamic Golden Age.

The original stories

This title derives from the first English-language edition (1706), which rendered the title as The Arabian Nights' Entertainment, in turn based on the first European version (1704–1717) by Antoine Galland, called Les Mille et une nuits, contes arabes traduits en français ("Thousand and one nights, Arab stories translated into French"), and also containing additional material such as the popular stories of "Aladdin's Lamp", "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" and "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor".

See further the entry in Wikipedia on One Thousand and One Nights[1].


Go to ESAT Bibliography

Adaptations and translations

The stories from The Arabian Nights have been the source of many plays, dances, pantomimes, films and TV dramas over the years. What follows below is a list of titles for those that have made their way to South African stages and the local media. Where the entry is not discussed below, click on the appropriate title to go to the particular entry for more detail.

The Arabian Nights as the title of a play

The Arabian Nights by Hal Collier Edwards and F.H. Dudley

This was apparently a comedy , based on a German tragedy called Harun Alraschid by an unidentified author.

Performance history in South Africa

1888: Performed in the Exhibition Theatre, Cape Town, by Hirshfield's Theatre Company as part of a repertoire that also included Sweet Lavender (Pinero), and In His Power (Quinton). The company included the actors J.A. Rosier, Albert Lucas and Joseph Ashman.


D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 387.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Other dramatized versions of the stories


There are a number of dramatised versions of this story, by local and international authors.

See Aladdin

An Arabian Night

A South African play, devised and performed by Janice Honeyman and cast and based on Sir Richard Burton's English translation.

See An Arabian Night

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

There are numerous of dramatised versions of this story, by local and international authors.

See Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Sinbad the Sailor

See Sinbad the Sailor.

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